Monday, June 4, 2018

Brazil’s youngest ever captain played for Inter Milan’s galacticos but remains relatively unknown

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Brazil’s youngest ever captain played for Inter Milan’s galacticos but remains relatively unknown

Jose Elias Moedim Junior.

The name might not instantly ring bells, but Ze Elias has many a story to tell when he looks back on his football career.

He spent 16 years as a professional footballer, representing 12 different clubs and earning ten caps for the Brazilian national team.

But that only tells half the tale.

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The reason why Ze Elias goes down in footballing history, at least for the moment, is that he’s the youngest ever player to captain Brazil’s national side.

On 27 September 1995 Ze Elias captained a side containing future World Cup winners Dida and Edilson as well as Ze Roberto, a player who would go on to pick up 84 caps for Brazil.

The young side, coached by the legendary Mario Zagallo who was preparing for the 1996 Olympics, held Romania to a 2-2 draw in Belo Horizonte.

Brazil only picked up a bronze medal at the ’96 Olympics, with Nwankwo Kanu helping Nigeria win gold.

It was deemed a failure back home, given Brazil could call upon Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Bebeto and Juninho, but Ze Elias had still done enough to earn a lucrative move to Europe ahead of the 1996/97 season.

He joined Bayer Leverkusen from Corinthians, the club he’d made a breakthrough at as a 17-year-old, slotting into a midfield role.

The season would end up in disappointment as Bayern Munich won the title by two points but, yet again, Ze Elias had caught the eye.

At the age of 21 Ze Elias signed for Inter Milan’s ‘galacticos’- arguably Europe’s most eye-catching squad.

The Javier Zanetti school of haircutsAP:Associated Press

He could call upon Ronaldo, Alvaro Recoba, Kanu, Ivan Zamorano, Youri Djorkaeff, Diego Simeone, Paulo Sousa, Aron Winter and Taribo West as team-mates.

While first-team opportunities were hard to come by during the 1997/98 campaign, Ze Elias did start the 1998 UEFA Cup final win over Lazio.

His task on that night was to stop Lazio’s midfield mavericks Pavel Nedved and Roberto Mancini playing, which he did to aplomb.

Zamorano’s fifth minute goal settled the nerves before Javier Zanetti and Ronaldo stuck to put the icing on the cake and secure Ze Elias his first European honour.

Not a bad side that

Unfortunately that was as good as it got for the Brazilian.

With playing time limited by Simeone and Winter, as well as Frenchman Benoit Cauet, Ze Elias was forced to leave the club at the end of his next season, in which Inter finished trophyless.

The year 1999 would also mark the last of Ze Elias’ ten caps for Brazil.

Ze Elias embarked on a globetrotting career after leaving Inter, playing for Olympiakos, Genoa, Santos, Metalurh Donetsk, Guarani, Omonia, Londrina and Rhiendorf Altach before retiring in 2009.

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For a career that started so promisingly, Ze Elias petered out away from the heights that some of his former team-mates reached.

But he was by no means a failure.

He could look back on a trophy cabinet that included three domestic honours from Brazil, one UEFA Cup, three Greek league titles and a Greek FA Cup.

Until someone younger comes along he’ll always be able to tell anyone who’ll listen that he’s the youngest skipper in the history of the Brazilian national team.

Not a bad claim to fame.

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